Presented By Dr. Brian Steel Wills, Professor, Kennesaw State University
Zoom Meeting, March 9, 2021 – 7PM (Zoom Invitation will follow)
As Nathan Bedford Forrest neared his forty-first birthday a great deal of what had constituted his world for decades had changed. The secession of his native Tennessee and the outbreak of war between the United States and the Confederate States had entered a second year. Forrest’s participation in the conflict had likewise grown from his entrance in it as a private to command of a regiment of cavalry. In June 1862, these troops consisted of Terry’s Texas Rangers, under Colonel John A. Wharton, and the Second Georgia Cavalry, under Colonel J.K. Lawton.
Earlier service at Fort Donelson, where he escaped dramatically from the encirclement of the position, and in the Shiloh Campaign, had demonstrated that Forrest was a capable and creative officer. Unsophisticated and undisciplined, with limited education, the untutored Confederate nevertheless developed and perfected his skills as a leader. His preference was for close hand fighting and his mantra remained, “Forward men, and mix with ‘em.” Fortunately for his future prospects, Forrest was a quick learner. Indeed, an observation of parade-ground maneuvers sparked a thought in him that would come to his assistance as he confronted the Union defenders of Murfreesboro on July 13, 1862. Bedford Forrest’s willingness to employ both bluff and bluster were assets as he closed on the city determined to see just how generous his adversaries were likely to be on his birthday. By the time the operation concluded, Nathan Bedford Forrest was well on his way to becoming the “Wizard of the Saddle,” having achieved a reputation as a brilliant cavalry raider and effective fighter.
Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. In addition to leading tours, offering lectures, and conducting programs, Dr. Wills is the award-winning author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War, including biographies of Confederate generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and William Dorsey Pender and Union general George Henry Thomas. He has also written about the Civil War in Virginia and in the movies and has most recently published a volume that focuses on noncombat deaths in the Civil War. A graduate of the University of Richmond, Va., and the University of Georgia, he spends time on his farm in Virginia when not teaching and working in Kennesaw.